By Connie Adair
“Every day, the more people who learn The Golden Rule, like perfect it, the more people master it, the better the earth will get, every day.” – Max, 8, Tecumseh Public School, talking about The Golden Rule.
The Golden Rule. It has nothing to do with politics and nothing to do with religion. Treat people the way you want to be treated. It’s a simple concept, and Erin Henry is teaching kids how they can use it to change the world.
Henry, a sales rep with Royal LePage in The Kingsway neighbourhood in Toronto, founded the Children’s Charter for Compassion after attending the Vancouver Peace Summit in 2009. The “gathering of compassionate-geared organizations” was attended by the Dalai Lama. Religious scholar and author Karen Armstrong was also at the summit, launching the Charter for Compassion, a global code of conduct.
Regardless of faith, or if you don’t have faith, The Golden Rule is a logical process, thought Henry at the time. But the mother of two wondered if young children, like her own, would “get it.”
Several months later, with the help of friends, she created the Children’s Charter for Compassion, which teaches children about empathy. It focuses on the positive in hopes of getting to the issues, such as bullying, before they happen.
One charter is designed for younger children and the other is for children 13 to 18-years-old. Henry also created two activity books, doing all the work herself and paying material costs out of her own pocket.
“I’m affiliated with organizations who promote the charter, but all the leg work, communications and class visits are me. I’ve had no funding from Day 1,” she says. However, now a printer is helping her out by printing the activity books at cost.
Henry visits classrooms across the GTA and reads books to the children, talks about compassion and has the class take the oath to observe The Golden Rule.
The class creates a Tree of Compassion, with leaves that carry messages of acts of kindness and compassion. “Little kids draw pictures of what makes them happy,” Henry says.
A school in London, Ont. was the first in the world to embrace the charter. The second school, in Kincardine, Ont., recently got on board. As compassionate schools, they, for example, may raise funds to donate to the homeless or work together to stop bullying.
More generally, the code of conduct reminds everyone of the standards of behaviour, she says.
“There is no religious connotation. It differentiates so many different faith groups. It’s in no way religious, in no way anti-religion and is not political. It’s very much about character and mindset.”
The one-hour presentations are geared to spreading positive energy and to teach kids to be good people.
The project takes many hours in the week. Henry has lost track of the number of classrooms and schools she has visited. The flexibility of her job as a Realtor helps, she says.
Visits are during school hours, so it also doesn’t interfere with her own children, who help the cause by cutting out leaves for the trees. They have also visited classrooms with their Mom.
It’s tiresome trying to balance it all, says the 20-year real estate veteran.
Her work doesn’t go unnoticed. She says clients are very supportive of her work. “It’s a feel-good project. I want to touch as many people as I can.”
Henry will be one of three people to be recognized for their compassionate work at the 2013 International Conference on Compassionate Organizations in Louisville Kentucky May 16-18.
The program has taken off – Henry no longer has time to help everyone who calls. She’d like to find volunteers who can help her by doing classroom presentations on their own.